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Just as Well Takes Arlington Handicap
Just as Well, owned and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, made a sweeping last-to-first move to win the Grade III $200,000 Arlington Handicap by a length on Saturday. The son of A. P. Indy covered the mile and a quarter over firm turf in 2:02.84.
The Arlington Handicap was the third stakes win of the day and fifth victory overall for jockey E. T. Baird, who one race earlier won the $200,000 Arlington Sprint aboard Yankee Injunuity and two races before that took top honors in the $53,300 Diamond Ring Stakes astride Romacaca.
"I rode this horse for Jonathan at Keeneland and he wanted him to settle in make just one run, a fluid run," said Baird, who leads all riders at the meet with 51 victories and finishes the day just three wins shy of 2,000 in his career. "He learned how to do that and it's paying off. It was a great day and I am grateful."
Last after a half mile and with only two horses beat after three-quarters of a mile, Just as Well circled the field exiting the final turn and closed stoutly while battling Gentleman Chester inside the last furlong before drawing clear for the win. It was his first stakes score and fourth victory in 17 starts overall. He picked up $111,600 for the Arlington Handicap win to elevate his earnings to $360,325.
"I'm happy for E. T. because he was a big part of teaching this horse to settle last year, Sheppard said. "He needs a longer run. At one time, we were trying to blow the whole field away in the stretch and he's not quite quick enough to do that. He's figured it out now and couldn't be happier. I was concerned about the pace, when he was in company with horses he was a little too rank. He took him back behind the field and then he settled pretty nicely for him."
Gentleman Chester rated mid-pack in the early going and then rallied through traffic to get into contention in the stretch, but couldn't hold off the winner. It was another neck back to two-time Arlington Handicap champion Cosmonaut, who ran third in the 12-horse field.
He ran his race, he ran a good race," said James Graham, who rode the runner-up.
My horse is a classy horse," said Cosmonaut's jockey Robby Albarado. "He was sitting comfortable most of the race, and gave me a good kick turning for home. He just got caught."
The Arlington Handicap serves as a prep for the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million which will be run here on Saturday, Aug. 8 as part of the International Festival of Racing. By virtue of today's result, the top three finishers earned free entry and starting fees in Million XXVII should their connections choose to run back.
Just as Well paid $10.40, $5.80 and $3.80. Gentleman Chester returned $16.20 and $8.40. Cosmonaut paid $3.20.
My Happiness, Telling, Silverfoot, Thabazimbi, Public Speaker, Stream Cat, Embossed, Plan and Ordination completed the order of finish.